In his introduction to “Is there a more OK way?” by Jon M. Walton and Barbara Wheeler in the March 30th Presbyterian Outlook, Jack Haberer, Editor writes:
"Behold, I will show you a still more excellent way. Presbyterians place a high premium on process, the way the church determines what it should teach and how it should act. The editor of this publication and authors he has published have been struggling not only with questions of what the PC(USA)’s teaching and pastoral practice should be with respect to same-gender marriage, but — just as important — how to make that decision as truthfully and gracefully as possible."
As a Teaching Elder, ordained as an openly gay man in 2005, I can attest to the “high premium” the PC(USA) places on process, even when the price of that process contributes to the discrimination and marginalization toward our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ/Q) members. The outcome of the upcoming discussions surrounding marriage that will be heard before this General Assembly will reflect who and whose we are more than any process employed in our deliberations. The decisions made by the commissioners will be about whether we see one another as sisters and brothers – or as an issue to be manipulated, strategized, and timed to produce “gracious outcomes,” regardless of the price of limited or delayed actions.
A flawed aspect of any “process” is that the further one is from being directly affected by its legislation the more of an issue the argument becomes. The potential danger is that a gulf of distance emerges, with outcomes missing the mark in how we love one another – reflecting, instead, an easier, softer, bartered way. This time, any time, but this time especially – we need to complete this work.
Passage of both the Authoritative Interpretation and Amendment to the Constitution represents a comprehensive end to the divided hospitality we can never embrace as progress. The Authoritative Interpretation will move the church-at-large away from the discriminatory behavior it now practices. The Amendment to the Constitution will end the use of our constitution as a tool of segregation. Together, they represent a faithful witness to all who believe we are children of the same God and a church that reflects such Grace with abundant love and hospitality – for all.
Now, I do not hold these progressive positions on marriage because society or culture calls for them. Nor do I hold these positions because marriage is not a sacrament – meaning that there really aren’t the same restrictions there otherwise might be if it were a sacrament in the PC(USA). I have married same gender loving couples and their marriages are as sacred and sacramental as any married couple you may know, given the privilege of their heterosexuality in the PC(USA) or other faith communities. In fact, I pray those other traditions change their ways, as well.
Rather, I hold these positions because they reflect my and others’ beliefs. Beliefs founded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; a gospel which has been diminished as a result of church exclusions in a world that needs “more Jesus” and more Love. I hold these beliefs because if we just get this right – we will be able to help make such a difference, living into the prophecy: Behold, I will show you a still more excellent way. And, I believe the PC(USA) is uniquely positioned to make this happen.
I disagree that we are “activists” concerned about “being caught behind the curve,” as an anonymous source was quoted in the article. I see this ministry as the work of faithful members trying to stay ahead of the curve; the curve of growing discrimination and violence based on exclusionary practices toward our families, friends, and loved ones.
And about forbearance...our work as LGBTQ/Q members and allies seeking change in the church has practiced forbearance, love across boundaries, and been gracious for decades, as much and more as any large group can be. We are not the ones who have called people to leave, brought charges and trials against others, ended individuals’ ministries, or attempted to force others to do anything their conscience calls them to oppose. Still, somehow we carry the spin of being the “problem” and the “issue.”
We are neither. We are not the issue and we are not the problem. We are members of your families, congregations, neighbors and friends. We are faithful and we are Christian.
Let us continue to hold each other in our prayers, now and always, and especially in these coming days.
Ray Bagnuolo, Evangelist
That All May Freely Serve
June 2, 1014